“Mommy works so hard for you boys!” I tell my sons as I head into the studio. I know it’s challenging for them, sometimes, to understand what exactly I do and why I can’t always be around. Still, I need them to be confident in the knowledge that they’re the priority. These days, I head into work with a deeper purpose, because everything I do is an act of love. “Mommy works so hard for you,” I repeat, hoping they grasp the truth underneath the words. Then, I turn my attention to the task at hand.
Some of my most vivid memories of childhood are of spending quality time with my mother and two grandmothers. We did everything together, from crafting at the kitchen table to baking to tending the flower garden. No matter what I did, one of these three women was always there to guide and encourage me. They recognized my creative spark long before I did and tended the flame until it became a blaze. Now that I am a mother, I finally understand that none of this came easily. It took a great deal of effort to make me feel so nurtured and safe. Balancing motherhood with being a small business owner has required me to shift my perspective and really contemplate the lesson my mother taught me all those years ago: time and attention are the two most important gifts you can give to anyone.
Those of you who have been around from the beginning know that Kristen Baird® Jewelry has been on quite the journey. In the early days, when I was fresh out of SCAD, I was filled with enthusiasm and passion, but not a whole lot of direction. Like so many young people, I wanted to be everything to everyone. I still fall into this trap from time to time. The impulse to go go go and make make make sometimes got in the way of the impulse to craft, create, and explore. It’s easy to say yes to building a piece of jewelry I don’t particularly love, especially when growing my business was my sole focus. It’s not like I didn’t have the time! But, counterintuitively, this wasn’t helping my business grow in the way I wanted it to. Sure, I had work coming in, but it lacked an identity, and I felt like my voice was getting lost in the shuffle. That all changed when Paxton came along.
The moment I held that sweet, precious boy in my arms, I knew that a few things were going to have to change. If I wanted him to have the same positive memories I had from my childhood, I would need to give him my undivided attention. That means sitting with him while he molds with playdough or gets glue all over the table. Bringing him into the studio and letting him sort gems by color and shape, showing him my tools, and telling them exactly how they work. Once, I came into the playroom and found that he’d laid out all his crayons in order of size, color, and how often he used them. I had to keep myself from laughing out loud; I’d done the exact same thing as a kid.
As a small business owner, it’s natural to let your work seep into your everyday life. Before the boys, it was easy to justify taking a call during dinner or answering an email while at the park. But, while I’d never claim to be perfect, I strive to keep the time designated for my kids free of distraction. That means there’s simply less time during the day to designate to work. Far from harming my business, this has brought unexpected benefits. Because I’m no longer able to say yes to every single project, I focus on the work that is most important to me and that best reflects my artistic vision. I’ve also learned to let go of control (just a little) and delegate tasks to a team whose talents complement my own. Now I focus on my people, what I’m good at, what I want to do, and what I have time to do. All this has allowed my business to flourish rather than stagnate. Kristen Baird® has an identity even beyond my unique artistic style. It’s about time and attention.
The same qualities which contribute to great parenting also contribute to great art. The pieces I make are meaningful because I devote special attention to them, elevating each one with sentimental personal details. The same goes for my relationships with my clients. If I’m sitting down with someone at the coffee table or chatting over the phone, that person has my full attention. I’ve found that one twenty-minute conversation makes more of an impact on my business than any ad campaign. Having kids made me realize how precious time is, and that understanding carries through everything I do. Time spent lovingly is a gift. That’s the gift I choose to give both as a mother and an artist. That’s what I bring to the table.
“I’m working so hard for you, Mommy!” Paxton exclaims. I walk over to his little craft table and see, to my amazement, a drawing of our family: me, Drew, Paxton, and Preston together in front of our house. Paxton’s little face scrunches up with concentration as he presses down on the sky with his blue crayon. “I’m coloring so hard for you, Mommy. Because I love you.” Sometimes life is too beautiful for words.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Thank you for everything you do - seen and unseen.